As I shared in my blog post of August 16, I am amazed at the number of leadership lessons I run into while I am getting my monthly hair cut! Visits to the local hair salon have produced wonderful examples of how leaders should and should not behave as they attempt to get the most out of their people.
A couple of months back, I was treated to an object lesson in situational leadership (or lack thereof) that I will not soon forget. My hair stylist was regaling me with her leadership style when it came to supervising the other stylists in the salon. “I give them their space. They are free to do their own thing. I am here if they need me, but I don’t bother them.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? How wonderful to work for a supervisor who gives her employees full autonomy! Any one of us who has worked under the crushing hand of a micro manager would appreciate such freedom from our manager, wouldn’t we?
That’s not what Mrs. Johnson thought. You see, not five minutes after my stylist shared her “hands off leadership philosophy” with me, my haircut was rudely interrupted by a young stylist in a panic. “Mrs. Johnson’s hair is PURPLE!” she screamed. The next fifteen minutes was spent calming Mrs. Johnson down, for it seems that the young stylist who was given the freedom “to do her own thing” by her supervisor had left the hair coloring chemicals on a bit too long, freakishly discoloring her customer’s coif!
My stylist had made the age-old mistake of treating every employee and every employee’s ability to perform a given task the same. As a certified facilitator in Situational Leadership® I have learned that a leader must always assesses the readiness of his or her followers to complete a task. Once the leader makes such an assessment, he or she must then apply the appropriate leadership style to aid his or her charge in successfully completing the task.
The mistake my stylist made is that she treated her young follower as though she was both able and willing to successfully navigate Mrs. Johnson’s die job, and so therefore used a very hands-off approach in her leadership style. My stylist should have recognized that while her employee might have been willing to venture off by herself into the land of hair dying, she was not yet fully able to do so. It was clear for all to see, especially Mrs. Johnson as she looked horrifyingly into the mirror, that my stylist should have used a much more directive leadership style with her young stylist.
As a leader, you must gain the skills necessary to assess the readiness level of your followers for a given task and then flex your leadership style to assist them in completing that task successfully. Leadership style is not a “one size fits all” proposition!
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